Friday, February 29, 2008

Black Capped Chickadee Nest

This nest with all the lovely moss in it belonged to black capped chickadees. They are one of my favorite little birds. They are so brave and so friendly. Usually they stay around here all year. If a bluebird house is near to a tree line, then chickadees may nest in the box. Who could begrudge these little guys a place to stay? Certainly not me!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tree Swallow Nest

We are back to my nest pictures. This one is a tree swallow nest. Tree swallows love to include feathers in their nest. I guess they find them, but if you've ever seen them dive bomb a cat, or my husband's head, then it's not hard to imagine them stealing feathers from another bird. Like bluebirds, the tree swallows are great insect eaters and a welcome addition to the garden. They are real flying aces too. On late summer days the tree swallows will dive close to ground level, fly in one of the openings in the stone wall and out another.

When placing bluebird houses, two houses next to each other works best. Bluebirds like some distance between nests, and tree swallows do too. So one nest of bluebirds and one of tree swallows works nicely. For information on blue birds, New York's state bird, click on the New York Bluebird Society. You can even hear one sing!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Inside Looking Out

It's February, still, in upstate New York. Our little glimpse of spring is over. I have to say waking up this morning to the incredible blue cast and muffled silence that comes with a thick layer of snow was wonderful. Now with more light we have pristine white. It's absolutely beautiful out every window of the house. I know that here, sometimes, we get lots of snow in March.

The bluebirds were here though, and I can't help but wonder where those bluebirds are now. I have more bird nests to show you, but I just had to do a snow picture today. My scented geraniums are hugging the glass reaching for the sun. They are waiting to be out there too. I rub their leaves and close my eyes. Mmm... I guess I can wait.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Spring Birdhouse Cleaning

After I saw my first bluebird of the season, my husband suited up and went around to clean out the bluebird houses that we have scattered around the 30 acres. The very next day he was rewarded with the sight of four male bluebirds checking out the boxes outside the kitchen window. The guys always check out the real estate first. The girls come along later.

The picture above is the remains of a blue bird nest from last year. It is made up of mostly grass. This one is two layers, one definitely used and the other perhaps not. The best one can hope for is two clutches of bluebirds in a summer. We try to clean out the boxes in between, but the timing is sometimes tricky. The birds don't have the blue leaflet that gives the date the second clutch should be laid. Sometimes we actually get to see those gorgeous blue eggs if she has already started her second clutch. In that case we quickly close the box to disturb her as little as possible.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

First Bluebird ?

It's a beautiful sunny day here so I tramped out in the snow to take some pictures. The view you see is from the garden facing east. The snow is now filled with animal tracks. In the distance is one of my husband's "temporary" stone walls and the bee hives.

I came back in the house to start chili and corn bread for lunch, and it was while I was cooking that I saw it. He was perched on the bluebird house that I can see out my kitchen window. He was facing me so I didn't see that fabulous blue flash. It was the rosy chest that caught my eye. I ran to get the binoculars to get a better look, and when I got back... GONE! I look for robins in the spring, but they can't touch the thrill of that first bluebird. Wow, he made my day!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pristine Snow

The snow on the garden looks great. It's all new and white. This morning just stepped out into the basement entryway to snap today's picture. I love that pristine snow look. Now there are a few animal tracks in the garden. By tomorrow there will be more. I will be more willing to add my own footprints then.

My spring GreenPrints came. I love this little magazine and read it cover to cover the day it comes. I've always done that, but now I have a friend who usually has illustrations for a couple of stories in every issue. Paging through the magazine, I test myself to see if I can recognize her work before I check for her name. Her work is so unique, it's easy really. She has just started a blog, Farmhouse Greetings. It's a nice place to visit.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Coyotes Aren't Ugly

Yesterday, one of our most elusive neighbors made an appearance outside the bedroom window. Nine in the morning is an unusual time to see an eastern coyote, but when we are inside, the animals here make themselves at home here. I had to get the binoculars to make sure it wasn’t the gray fox that we sometimes see. The coyote walked past the compost bins and went up the path in the notch. After he got to the top of the path, he turned left and walked up the ridge. The silhouette of that beautiful animal against the sky was a sight to behold.

I wish I had a great photo for you, but just opening the window would have made him take off, and at that distance it would have been a “Where’s Waldo” picture anyway. So the best I can do is a picture of the scene out the bedroom window, and a link to a blog with great pictures of an eastern coyote. You’ll have to use your imagination for the rest.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Restless Winter

If you think as I do of the winter as being a time for a garden to rest in preparation for the exuberance of spring, then you know my garden is having a restless night. First it was nicely tucked in under a blanket of snow, then the covers were thrown off in a hot flash. Next came chills and finally the blanket was back. I have lost track of how many times that has happened this year. I'm afraid my perennials will wake with the equivalent of bags under their eyes.

The daffodils are sticking the tips of there leaves above the level of the dirt. Since the picture, the blanket is back, the snooze button has been set. Another week or two under the covers would be perfect. Without that beauty sleep those leaf tips will brown. Of course the flowers will be so glorious, who will notice?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

On a Clementine box

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood! Blue sky has been a rare sight here of late. Finally I got a chance to take a picture with some color and light.

Not too long ago, a friend from California told me of a book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I’m always ready to read a book about gardening, but this was not the book I was expecting. It’s about raising most of your own food, but it’s also about saving oil.

Here’s where I get up on my Clementine box. (I don’t have a soap box.) Eating as much locally produced food as possible is a really good thing! Right from the outset, since I’m wobbling on a little Clementine box, you know I buy some well- traveled produce. In a way I’ve always resented that those cute little orange things have been in Spain and I haven’t, but I never really considered that it takes oil to get them here. This book has given me something to think about. Barbara’s website has great pictures, (Love those Bourbon Red turkeys), recipes and links to information about C.S.A.s and farmer’s markets. Click on the book title to go there. This next growing season, you could make a difference.

Now I can look at my garden with the same satisfied feeling as a person who drives a hybrid looks at their car. We’re both doing a good thing.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Winter Garden Beds

It’s a lovely snowy day since I don’t have to go anywhere. The garden is back to a more wintry normal. The plants are safe under their blanket of snow. I bet the skunks have gone back to sleep too. There’s not much to do outside, so I took some time to sort out this year's seeds. I always start out the year with the new seeds marked for 2008 and arranged in alphabetical order in their own box. For awhile it makes it easier to find them, although I confess the system loses out as the summer wears on. That done, it’s time to go back through the leftover seed from previous years and check to make sure I have my necessary seeds. Sometimes I save seed. Sometimes extra seeds from last year are still good, and sometimes, all good intentions aside, there are some seed packets that never got opened. There’s always hope for them this year.

Some of my favorite vegetable varieties:
Basil: Genovese, Red Rubin, Aroma 2
Beans: Asparagus yard long beans
Beets: Rodina, Forono
Carrots: Sugar Snack
Kale: Winterbor, Red Russian
Onions: Copra
Peas: Oregon Giant snow peas, Lincoln shell peas
Pepper: Ace
Pumpkin: Small Sugar
Spinach : Bloomsdale, Melody
Squash: Butternut, Table Ace acorn, Golden Hubbard
Tomatoes: Red Sun

It’s not the whole list but it’s a start. I did not list a favorite lettuce because that is one place where I’ll buy almost anything. I think Flashy Trout Back was my favorite last year. Maybe I missed something. I’ll just give those catalogs one more look. It's still early!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

An Exciting Morning !

This morning the garden is getting its blanket of snow back. It's not a thick cozy comforter yet, but it's a start. I always feel much better when my plants, and their new growth for next year are safely covered with that blanket of snow. I always felt the same way about having my children tucked in bed for the night.

I was sipping my morning coffee, and admiring the beauty of the new snow on the garden when I noticed a black ball of fur writhing under the fruit trees. I found the binoculars to get a better look. No doubt about it, that was a pair of skunks. I had noticed a "Je ne sais quoi." when I left the house the other day. Of course I knew exactly what the quoi was, but it was very faint. I thought of just one skunk. Surprise!

So my morning of voyeurism began. First I have to say that those Pepe Le Pew cartoons are right on. Just substitute another skunk for the cat. It really was like a rather long and exciting game of twister mixed with the usual mating motion. They rolled over a rather large area. Finally when they separated they each backed away from each other, tails held high. She took off toward the trees. After surveying the field of play, he followed in the same direction.

The bugs, slugs and bees around here will have to beware! The great horned owls will be delighted, and I will definitely be talking loudly to myself when I'm outside early in the morning or after dusk. Skunks can be useful to have around, but they don't like surprises!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hens and Chicks

Can this be February? These hens and chicks (I think Mom called them cats and kittens) are on top of that icy curved wall from two posts ago. I bought these this fall, because last winter, the furry critters ate the ones that I had for years. The top of the stone wall seemed exactly the right place to plant them.

As you can see things have melted and it's a lot less muddy. Now there's a little snow in the air. I'm sure the plants would love to have their white blanket back. The driveway is clear, but I'm still waiting for that one seed order. Shumway lost the race. When it comes I can check to see what other seeds I might need (or want).

This is a wonderful time for a gardener with the promise of a new spring, and another gardening season. The potential is thrilling!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Blooming Can Be Hard

The weather has warmed and the ice is retreating. There are still some very icy spots. The UPS man actually did make it up the driveway yesterday. If we get the predicted rain and thunder, the driveway should clear tonight.

So I walked around the garden and looked for something really neat to take a picture of. There it was, a beautiful Johnny Jump Up! Yes, it looks bedraggled, wet, muddy, but remember this plant was encased in ice only yesterday. It has every right to be a little bedraggled. I should look so good after such treatment. Flowers in February are always special. Actually, I love these little guys. They are hardy, fragrant, delicious in salads, and have such cute faces. Once started, these really spread. It tugs at my heart strings a bit to pull them out. Many times I don't!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Frosted Stone

I was all set to go out today, but the driveway is a glare of ice. Actually, the garden is too. I took this picture by opening the bedroom window. Walking out there today is just not a smart move. These particular stone walls lead to the basement of the house. The stone path and the curved stone walls were made of stones from the garden with the addition of some beautiful water-worn stones from a friend with a brook. It's two stones to one dirt in most places here, with some places being three to one. We will never run out of stones.

If you can get past the idea of being stuck here, the iced stones and garden are really quite beautiful. I'm not at all sure that the plants like this sort of weather, but they are brave little survivors.

Stokes seeds and the USPS won the seed race. I ordered from three places on the same day and received the first ones yesterday. The UPS man would never attempt the driveway in this weather. Today I think I'll look at that new catalog with the great sale. Maybe I'll add those tuberose bulbs. I've never tried those and I love fragrant plants.